A non-judgemental safety bus where women can seek refuge, support and advice on an evening will launch this weekend in Leeds city centre.
The Women’s Night Safe Space pilot, a joint initiative between Women’s Lives Leeds and Safer Leeds, will be piloted in Dortmund Square over the next three weekends and will be a place where women can come if they feel concerned, unsafe, unwell or vulnerable.
The bus will offer support facilities including mobile phone charging; water, refreshments, and warm drinks; support calling a taxi; somewhere to talk through concerns and be signposted for further support; a safe place to report incidents to the police and wait for further assistance; or simply somewhere warm where women can wait for friends, so they are not alone.
A female security officer from security firm Gough and Kelly will be on hand for the duration of the pilot to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people accessing the safe space and the staff and volunteers delivering it. West Yorkshire Police will also be available if needed to respond to incidents reported by people who access the project.
Starting on Friday 4 March and then for three consecutive weekends, the bus will be available from 9pm until 2am.
People are also being urged to use the ‘Ask for Angela’ service if they feel unsafe in a bar, pub or club. More information about Ask for Angela can be found here.
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for resources with responsibility for Safer Leeds said: “This important pilot forms part of the city’s wider work in addressing violence against women and girls. Following the successful launch of the Ask for Angela campaign last year, we now want to expand on that work and create a safe place for women to go if they feel at risk while out and about in the city centre.
“Every woman in Leeds should be able to visit our city and feel safe but we know that may not always be the case. Our aim is to tackle and prevent any issues before they arise and provide women with a safe, friendly and non-judgemental place to visit if they feel unsafe and we hope we can roll this pilot out more widely in the future.”
Emily Turner, Women’s Lives Leeds project manager, has led the organisation of the Women’s Night Safe Space pilot. She says: “The Leeds Women’s Safety survey in May 2021 surveyed over 1,300 women of all ages, from all parts of the city.
”50% of the women we surveyed told us they often or always felt unsafe in the city centre at night. This pilot addresses the important issue of women feeling safe, as well as being safe, giving them a non-judgemental safe space to support their needs, be it make a report to the police, or simply a space to wait for friends if they become separated and worried.
“The main priorities that emerged from the survey were the need to tackle the attitudes and behaviour which underpin violence against women and girls; to make city environments safer; to increase reporting and improve responses.
“This pilot is a starting point, but no single organisation can achieve change on their own. We need a whole societal approach to raise the profile and awareness of the issue of safety for women and girls. We need to give all citizens the tools to take action and give a clear message that Leeds takes a zero-tolerance approach.”
Ian Crawford, Gough and Kelly Operations Director said: “We are very happy to support the pilot scheme and work alongside Women’s Lives Leeds to help ensure the safety of women in the city. We will be encouraging everyone in our team and wider networks to help raise awareness of the safe space and make sure women know that support is available should they need it.”